Saturday, November 5, 2016

It's Official: The Bengal Tech Space is Ready to Go!

Ribbon Cutting for Bengal Tech!
It is official!  After a several weeks of anticipation, the new Bengal Tech space is open for business!  It was exciting to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and the grand opening celebration recently.  Lots of students, families, and local officials came out to Bassett High School to tour the new space.  Based on the rave reviews we received from the visitors, I think the new learning space is a hit!  I'm looking forward to seeing all of the innovative learning opportunities and projects that our students will be engaged in during the year!

Bengal Tech is the second New Tech Network school in Virginia.  As a reminder, Magna Vista's Warrior Tech was the first.  The New Tech Network approach is transforming teaching and learning in Henry County.  Students who participate in Bengal Tech OR Warrior Tech are a part of a unique high school experience that focuses on 3 main tenants:  teaching that engages, technology that enables, and a culture that empowers.  By providing relevant project-based learning opportunities, our students are developing college, career, and citizenship-ready skills that will prepare them for their future, no matter what path they choose!

The expansion of New Tech in Henry County is important to our ongoing work torward making learning more engaging and relevant for all of our students.  We have been busy incorporating many of the concepts learned through New Tech into our pre-K through 12 curriculum.   As a result, all of our students participate in project-based learning and performance tasks regardless of their grade level or program.  We have also been busy revamping learning spaces in order to truly support our focus not the 4 C's (critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, and communication).

It is a great time to be a student in HCPS!  We are looking forward to continuing to make learning more exciting, relevant, and meaningful for all of our students!  If you are interested in learning more about our New Tech programs, please contact the high school principal.  You can also find additional information on each high school's website.  The links are included below:

Warrior Tech           Bengal Tech

Commons Area for Bengal Teach Students to Present and Collaborate.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Welcome to a New School Year!

We are off to a great school year!  It has been a busy couple of weeks.  Even before the students arrived, HCPS welcomed over 70 new teachers!  In addition, we welcomed all HCPS staff to a new school year with our keynote speaker, Dave Burgess.  Mr. Burgess challenged us to "Teach Like a Pirate!"  He encouraged us to use "hooks" to grab our students' attention.  He also challenged us to find our passion in our content and the work.  Finally, he gave us practical tips to engage and motivate students each and every day.  In addition to hearing from Mr. Burgess, several of our students welcomed us to a new school year.  What a great way to start the 2016-2017 school year!

Dave Burgess and Me after Convocation
During the first day of school, I had the honor of visiting all of our 15 schools and centers.  I was impressed with the level of student engagement that was evident from the very first week of school. It is clear that teachers were excited to welcome our students back to school, and our students are ready to make this the best year yet!

We have a lot of great things to be excited about this year. We are expanding on the great things that are already in place in HCPS.  We are also working to continue to make learning relevant and engaging for our students.  The list below includes some of our new initiatives for 2016-2017:

  • This past year, we have worked to ensure that all elementary and middle school classrooms have a SmartBoard or Active Panel to utilize for instructional purposes.  High school teachers apply for grants to get an interactive board in their classrooms as well.  
  • We have implemented a new digital program called MyOn that provides students with easy access to digital books.  Students can download these at school and they don't have to have Internet access at home to utilize this resource.  We are putting several efforts in place to help students read more often and develop a genuine love for reading.
  • We worked with teachers this summer to continue to revise our curriculum to ensure that students have a relevant, engaging curriculum that helps students master the 4 C's (Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication).  This has been a focus for us for the last several years; however, adjustments are made each year based on student and teacher feedback.
  • We have remodeled several media centers to create more of a 21st century learning environment that supports the 4 C's.  We have completed two media center renovations (FC Middle and Mt. Olivet) and we are completing the media centers at G. W. Carver Elementary and Laurel Park Middle this fall, as well as creating an innovative new library at Bassett High School as part of the renovations for Bengal Tech Academy.
  • The middle schools are implementing a school-wide discipline model this year to reinforce behavior expectations and assist students with learning to take responsibility for their behavior.  It is anticipated that this will lead to a decrease in student referrals and suspensions.
  • We have launched Bengal Tech this year for 9th and 10th grade students at Bassett High School.  This is the second New Tech Network School in Virginia (Magna Vista's Warrior Tech was the first) and provides students with an integrated curriculum that is focused on project-based learning around relevant topics.  As a result of this project, the former media center at Bassett is being transformed into a collaborative learning space and the new media center is being developed in the back of the school.
Back to School Family Summit!

  • We have added furniture to common area spaces in our secondary schools in order to create opportunities for students to work collaboratively.  If we believe in the 4 C's, then we need to create areas for students to practice these skills.
  • This year, we are piloting a personalized learning approach at our alternative schools.  This will provide an opportunity for students to work at their own pace and earn applicable credits as they are ready.  It also helps students set personal goals and meet learning objectives as they are ready.  If this is a success - I have already heard good things from students - we will expand this opportunity to the traditional high schools as early as next year.  
  • We have expanded our online course offerings for students, and several students participated in online learning over the summer for Economics and Personal Finance and Heath/PE 9.  We hope to expand these course offerings to give students options beyond the traditional classroom setting.  
  • This year, we are launching a mentoring program to support our students.  Our hope is that we will recruit up to 100 mentors to meet with some of our students on a regular basis throughout the school year.  We want our students to get to know positive role models who can support them as they work toward future success.  
It is definitely going to be a great year in HCPS!  It takes all of us working together to provide the best educational system for our students and community.  Let's make 2016-2017 our best year yet!  

Interview with StarNews on the First Day of School

Friday, April 22, 2016

Congrats to the 2016 HCPS Retirees! Thank you for your service!

HCPS 2016 Retirees

I had the great honor of recognizing our 2016 retirees at the annual Retirement Banquet last night. We are so fortunate to have high-quality, dedicated professionals who have spent their career serving the students of Henry County.  Thank you so much for your service and dedication!

A copy of my opening comments and closing remarks are included below:

Opening Comments
"This evening, I’d like to take you back to 1986 for just a few moments: a gallon of gas was 89 cents, Halley’s Comet had its closest approach to Earth, Top Gun was one of the year’s most popular films, and many of you became educators that year.

Just like Top Gun’s Goose and Maverick, you were eager to impress your colleagues and willing to take risks as you worked to share your expertise and support student growth. From the launch of the Human Genome Project to tragedies like the Chernobyl and Challenger disasters, the year was rich with groundbreaking events to discuss with students and so many new things to try.

While some ideas and tools from 1986 have been replaced in your repertoire, many are still present in the work you do with students today. Most of us appreciate the advances made since IBM’s PC Convertible (the first laptop computer) was introduced in 1986, we are once again marveling at the uses for 3D printing, and we are ever-mindful of evolving acceptable Internet use standards. Though you probably didn’t use it for a few more years, the Internet Mail Access Protocol, which opened the way for e-mail, was defined in 1986. Today, we can hardly imagine working without it!

You have worked hard to change the lives of students and their families by greeting them with a smile, developing relationships with them, and showing them the value of working hard for the good of others.

You entered a profession dedicated to assisting young people in doing and becoming more than they ever believed possible. As you leave the profession, you are taking the struggles and successes of those students with you.

The memories you have will serve as lasting reminders that you have made a difference in the lives of so many in our community. We are honored tonight to recognize your dedicated service to the children of Henry County and to celebrate the memories that you have created."

Closing Remarks
"Bernard Baruch once said "Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can't retire his experience. He must use it." Tonight we have had the honor of celebrating a combined 1,218.5 years of experience. The lessons you’ve taught and the time you’ve spent listening over the course of those years has shaped generations.

As you leave tonight, remember that retirement for an educator means giving up a job, not giving up the right to teach. Even after you retire, I hope you never stop imparting wisdom and teaching others the important lessons of life. As you say goodbye to students and colleagues and make plans for the time ahead, be mindful of the valuable lessons you’ve shared with our students: challenge yourself by learning something new and use your talents to do good for those around you. Continue to be a positive force in the lives of those who need your influence.

You are not just retiring from education. You are retiring from one of the most important jobs in the world, which is helping young minds to dream big. You will be quoted for a long time to come. You will be remembered.

On behalf of the staff and students of Henry County Public Schools, thank you for laying the foundation for the future of our community. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children.

Congratulations on your retirement!"

Monday, March 21, 2016

Great Day at #MOETown: Superintendent's Office Hours!

Meeting with SGA Reps in New Collaboration Space
I had a great day at Mt. Olivet (#MOETown) as a part of my Superintendent's Office Hours a couple of weeks ago.  During the day, I had an opportunity to see high-quality instruction taking place in several classrooms.  In addition, I had the awesome opportunity to meet with student leaders to learn about strengths and challenges for their school.  The schedule below provides a list of some of the day's activities:

  • Walked the building to speak to students and staff as the school day got started.
  • Visited several classrooms to observe instruction and assist as needed (Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Mitchell, Mrs. Lankford, Ms. Wood, and Mrs. Cassell).
  • Met with Mrs. Minter, principal, and Mrs. Sandy Strayer, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, to review data and discuss progress toward meeting established goals.
  • Reviewed student writing throughout the building with QR codes that linked to a recording of students reading their work!
  • Met with a parent to obtain feedback related to the school.
  • Joined the first grade at the YMCA to watch them participate in their swimming lesson (What a great partnership we have with the YMCA!).  
Overall, it was a great day at Mt. Olivet!  I was impressed with the students' writing K-5.  I was also impressed with the powerful instructional strategies I saw during the day (focus on writing, nonfiction reading, and differentiation).  I was also impressed with the positive attitudes observed throughout the day and the opportunities provided to develop student leadership.  I look forward to future visits to #MOETown!

Hanging out with first grade at the YMCA after their swimming lesson

Friday, March 18, 2016

Great day at John Redd Smith Elementary--Superintendent's Office Hours

Learning to play the recorder in students during music class
I had an exciting and busy day at John Redd Smith Elementary as a part of my Superintendent's Office Hours a couple of weeks ago.  During my visit, I had an opportunity to participate in various activities with students.  In addition,  I was scheduled to assist in several classrooms.  I was very impressed with how engaged the students were throughout the day.  I was also happy to see the teachers at JRS working hard to implement innovative strategies in an effort to maximize student learning.  The list below includes some of my activities during my exciting and productive day at John Redd Smith Elementary:

  • Walked the building and visited several classrooms as the school day got started.
  • Visited Mrs. Garrett's room to observe her students as they started an engaging, hands-on learning activity.
  • Participated in Mrs. Joyce's music class as students learned to play the recorder.  I'm happy to report that I'm ready to test for my "orange" belt as a part of Mrs. Joyce's "recorder karate" system.  What a great way to motivate students to learn more!
  • Met with a grandmother to discuss a safety concern related to a nearby road that feeds into John Redd Smith Elementary.  
  • Met with Mrs. Whitlow and Mrs. Sandy Strayer, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, to discuss student data and the school's progress toward meeting established goals.
  • Observed and assisted in Mrs. Campbell's 4th grade class.  
  • Enjoyed school lunch in the cafeteria with Mrs. Whitlow and several 5th grade students who are excited about going to middle school next year!
  • Visited several additional classrooms during the afternoon to observe students and teachers in action.
  • Assisted with dismissal at the end of the school day.  It was extremely busy during this time, but the staff at JRS do an excellent job of ensuring that students are dismissed in an orderly and safe manner.
Overall, it was a great day at JRS.  The students were highly engaged in the instruction and the teachers are clearly working hard to implement research-based strategies in the classroom.  In addition, the teachers and students are excited about plans for the new school, Meadow View Elementary.  Even though the current building has many challenges, the teachers and staff have created a powerfully effective learning environment for students.  Keep up the great work, JRS!  I look forward to future visits.  
Talking with some very bright students in Mrs. Campbell's Class

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Congratulations to our Teachers of the Year!

Teachers of the Year for HCPS

It was a great honor to recognize the HCPS Teachers of the Year this week.  In HCPS, we are fortunate to have so many phenomenal teachers who serve our students each and every day.  This evening provides an opportunity to celebrate this great profession!  I was proud to recognize each of the teachers of the year and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the children of our community.  I've included my comments from the TOY ceremony below.  Thanks for all you do and congratulations!

"2013’s National Teacher of the Year, Jeff Charbonneau, is known for best describing what it means to be an educator. He says, “Education is not about the subjects in the books, web-pages or wiki-spaces. It is about the subjects in the seats. Our most important job is to develop positive relationships with students that foster an increase in their self-confidence and self-awareness.” It is our great pleasure tonight to honor fifteen Henry County Public Schools teachers who foster those relationships every day in our classrooms. You dedicate countless hours to your students, ensuring that they are fully prepared for what lies ahead – both academically and socially. You spend evenings and weekends planning for your students and serving our community in a variety of ways. You exemplify leadership for your students and your colleagues.

Albert Einstein reminds us that it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. To accomplish this monumental task each day, you work to individualize instruction and meet the needs of a very diverse group of learners. Collaboration and creativity are infused in even the smallest of moments. Though it may not always feel like it, they notice and their families notice.

You are here this evening because your colleagues notice your tireless dedication as well.  At this time, I would like to share some commendations that our teachers of the year have earned from students, parents, community members, and their colleagues:

Axton Elementary’s Debra Easley: “Mrs. Easley has an engaging teaching style. She readily tries new teaching strategies, which accommodate students’ learning needs. Her effective classroom management techniques create a safe environment where students try new things, take risks, and progress academically.” –Crystal Dixon, colleague

From Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell on Bassett’s Hope Perry: “Obviously, we take the guest experience seriously. It was comforting to know Hope Perry was one of our “first impressions.” Mrs. Perry did a wonderful job for me. It was obvious, though, her heart and passion was ultimately to be an educator and I knew that is where she would eventually go. What I lost Henry County gained and the real beneficiaries are the students in this community.”

Campbell Court Elementary’s Tammy Doss: “Although Tammy has a large number of students in her classroom, she is keenly aware of her students’ needs and promptly addresses those needs as they arise. She tirelessly remediates individual students as well as student groups in order to ensure their success.” – Kim Belcher, colleague

Center for Community Learning’s Yvonne Elgin: “If I had to describe Yvonne Elgin in a short phrase, I would say she is consistently seeking to serve those around her by helping them go further than they thought possible. Yvonne expects great things out of her students and of those she works with. She is always well prepared and seeks ways to make a difference in the lives of those entrusted to her care.” – Michael Harrison, pastor

Collinsville Primary’s Elizabeth Green:Collinsville Primary had named Mrs. Libby Green as their teacher of the year. She is a very deserving candidate! She was an inspiration to me as she was my first grade teacher a few years back and now I'm teaching first grade! I want her to know that because of teachers like her I'm doing what I love to do.” – Kim Draper, colleague and fellow Teacher of the Year

Drewry Mason’s Ashley Cox: “My favorite thing about Mrs. Cox is that she loves me and I can tell. She is always so nice and kind to me but also comes to see me outside of school. This year and last year she has come to watch me play basketball, soccer and baseball. She will sit out in the freezing cold or 100 degree heat just to watch me and my classmates.” –Hayley DeShazo, student

Fieldale-Collinsville’s Daniel McKinney: “Mr. McKinney is a teacher of extraordinary talent, enthusiasm, and innovation. Despite being relatively new to education, he has the confidence, knowledge, and skills that impressively surpass many ‘seasoned’ teachers. He maintains high standards and expectations for every student and provides them with the tools needed for success.” – Hope France, colleague

GW Carver’s Amy Agee: “Mrs. Agee goes above and beyond to help students in need. She often uses her planning time to remediate students throughout the year, teaches summer school each June, and is currently instructing students in the after-school tutuoring program. She wants to give every student with whom she works the opportunity to shine.” – Judy Edmonds, principal

John Redd Smith’s Susan Hatfield: “Mrs. Hatfield is fun. She describes everything. She teaches things in more than one way so that if students can’t get it the first way, they do in another way.” – Zoie Pace, student

Laurel Park’s Celena Hairston: “Passionate and committed to the success of her students, Mrs. Hairston seeks to maximize each student’s learning potential by focusing on individual strengths and fostering unwavering, positive relationships. She works diligently to deliver meaningful, quality instruction and strives to improve student confidence in reading through real-life application and encouragement.” – Emily Roop, Assistant Principal

Magna Vista’s Brook Hankins: “Brook’s devotion to her students, profession and school makes her stand out as a positive example among her peers. She has earned the respect of teachers who work with her and has become a leader among the staff of Warrior Tech. The students adore her because of the way she can push them to be greater, yet do so in a caring way.” -Josh Bocock, colleague

Mt. Olivet’s Teressa Fridley: “Mrs. Fridley is someone who understands the importance of building relationships – in the classroom and beyond. It is obvious that she loves and respects her students and that those feelings are returned.” –Natalie Coleman, colleague

Rich Acres’ Ashley Adams: “When I think of Ashley’s classroom management style, I think firm but fair. Ms. Adams has great relationships with students throughout our building but they also know she has high expectations and they rise to her standards.” – Rebecca Allen, colleague

Sanville’s Cindy Anderson: “Mrs. Anderson has high expectations for all students regardless of their background. She is a learner and pushes her students to explore and learn as well. Her classes have always had top pass rates and academic growth because of the academic and behavioral expectations she sets forth for the students – and the students meet them.” – Dr. Sally Rodgers, principal

Stanleytown’s Kimberly Draper: “We cannot think of a teacher more deserving of being named Teacher of the Year than Mrs. Draper. Her passion for her students is awe-inspiring. We feel very lucky and blessed that Addison is spending her first grade year with this incredible teacher. She has impacted Addison’s life in a special way and we are eternally grateful for her passion and persistence.” –Trey and Sheri Harris, parents

Renowned newscaster Dan Rather once said, "The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth." Thank you for encouraging the dreams of our students and for prodding them to stretch themselves beyond what they believe they are capable of being and doing. Thank you for your commitment to education and to the students of Henry County." 

Finalists for HCPS Teacher of the Year

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Busy Day at Drewry Mason Elementary: Superintendent's Office Hours

Reviewing "telling time" with Kindergarten Students in Mrs. Williams' Class
 I recently spent the day at Drewry Mason Elementary as a part of my Superintendent's Office Hours.  Wow, it was a busy day!  I like to stay busy, so I told the principal, Dr. Lewis, to schedule me to work with students and teachers throughout the day.  She did not disappoint!  When I arrived, she provided me with a detailed schedule to follow throughout the day.  The schedule provided  valuable opportunities for me to work closely with students, teachers, and staff throughout the day.  I continue to be impressed with how hard our staff work each and every day to serve the students in their care.  The list below includes just some of my activities during my day at Drewry Mason Elementary:

  • Worked with students on writing in Mrs. Joyce's Kindergarten class (Daily 5). Her students are developing into proficient writers!
  • Participated in an "unannounced" lockdown drill while I was in Mrs. Joyce's class.  Mrs. Joyce and the students did an outstanding job!
  • Assisted students in Mrs. Compton's 2nd grade class as they completed their word work.
  • Visited with Mrs. Martin's preschool class.  I was able to join students in the play-dough center.  It was also great to see the preschool students meet to "debrief" their work in the centers.  So amazing to see preschoolers working on communication and collaboration skills!
  • Worked with 4th grade students on multiplication in the DME Teacher of the Year's Classroom (Mrs. Cox).  
  • Enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria with Dr. Lewis and a fun group of kindergarten students.
  • Assisted 5th grade students with revising their writing in Mrs. Aldridge's class.
  • Assisted with dismissing car riders at the end of the day.  It was great to see the parents and grandparents who came to pick up their children at the end of the day.

As I reflect on my day at DME, I am encouraged by the great work taking place at the school.  The teachers and staff are working to implement Daily 5 with fidelity.  They are also working to differentiate in order to meet their students' needs.  I was also impressed by the strong work ethic and positive attitude that the staff exhibited, even when things did not go as expected.  Keep up the great work, DME.  I look forward to future visits!  
Working on multiplication with 4th grade students

Friday, January 15, 2016

Great Day at FC Middle: Superintendent's Office Hours

Learning about equations in Mrs. Lester's math class
I had a great day at FC Middle School this week as a part of my Superintendent's Office Hours.  I had the opportunity to visit several classrooms to observe instruction, and I had lots of opportunities to interact with students and staff throughout the day.  The list below includes just a few of my activities during my visit:
  • Greeted students as they prepared to start  a great day of learning.
  • Visited the newly renovated media center to see the updated floor, paint, and mobile furniture.  It is clear that this will be a great place to support and encourage student creativity and collaboration!
  • Joined 8th grade students in the auditorium as they learned about the new Bengal Tech Academy scheduled to start at Bassett High School during the 2016-2017 school year.  Several students said that they plan to apply for this innovative program.
  • Met with a parent of a 7th grade student to discuss concerns he has about various topics as well as suggestions for improvement.   
  • Visited several classrooms with principal, Mr. Campbell, and our Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Mrs. Sandy Strayer.  
  • Met with Mr. Campbell and Mrs. Strayer to discuss academic progress the school is making so far this year.  We reviewed student data and discussed instructional initiatives as FC Middle School.
  • Enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria with staff and students.
  • Spent time in Mrs. Lester's math class as students worked to solve equations by solving for "x."
  • Created a "self-portrait" in Mrs. Fleagle's art class.  I have to say that the students had some really creative self-portraits!
  • Assisted Mr. Warrick with his history lesson related to "taxation without representation."  I played the part of the tax collector to help the students get a sense of why the American colonists were not pleased with England prior to the American Revolution.  
Overall, it was a busy and productive day.  I was pleased to see the teachers working hard to make learning relevant for students.  It was also great to see the students engaged in learning throughout the day.  I'm looking forward to my next visit to FC Middle!

Developing my artistic side in Mrs. Fleagle's art class